Dr. Daniel Gould, a Los Angeles plastic surgeon at Marina Plastic Surgery, says more and more people are coming into his office asking to look like cheeky Instagram influencers.
“I’ll pull up [an influencer’s] page and I’ll show them how one picture was altered,” he says. “You can see in the background’s waviness. I’ll say, ‘Unfortunately, this body is not physically possible. And it’s not fair to think that you can achieve that.’”
What he can offer, however, is a BBL, or a Brazilian butt lift, a procedure that transfers fat from a person’s stomach or arms or legs into their posterior. Young people across the world are getting the procedure and documenting the entire thing on TikTok. The hashtags for BBLs and BBLsurgery have a combined 9 million views on the app.
A BBL doesn’t lift the butt exactly, but adds more volume, Gould says. And because it’s a body’s natural fat, patients can lose it if they don’t maintain their weight. The surgery can cost anywhere from $8,000 to $40,000 and can take as long as four-and-a-half hours. It’s complex because the doctors do liposuction on the patient when they are face up, then they turn them over to transfer the fat. Because older women tend to opt for the so-called mommy makeover—a customized series of procedures that could include everything from a breast lift to labiaplasty—BBLs are trending younger.
“Not only are we going to make your butt bigger, but we’re going to make your waist smaller, your upper back more kind of shaped like an hourglass,” Gould says. “That’s going to define your features in a more attractive way.”
Ariel McCurdy, a 22-year-old content creator from Texas, says she wanted a BBL since before they became popular on TikTok because, she jokes, her body was shaped like SpongeBob. McCurdy, whose content is mainly focused on normalizing the experience of being a woman, says it only felt right to share the surgery experience with her followers.
“The gym didn’t change the shape of my body,” McCurdy says. “I tried. I ate well. That didn’t work, so [a BBL] was really my last option and it was the best thing I’ve ever done.”
In a recent TikTok video she added, “I wasn’t going for some dramatic body. I just wanted it to look like I was born naturally with a good shape and a good booty.”
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In the same TikTok, she finally sits down on her butt, six weeks post surgery. “That feels weird,” she says. “Feels like I’m sitting on a balloon.” For six weeks, she and others who get the surgery have to lie on their stomach or sit using a BBL pillow, where the thighs touch the pillow but the butt doesn’t touch anything.
Gould says he sends all his patients to an outpatient facility, but in three to five days most patients are back at work. One week post-operation, patients might look in the mirror and see a ton of bruises and wonder what they’ve done. But by week two post-op, things are looking better. By six weeks post-op, Gould says patients can work out and do “90 percent of things they were doing before.”
Mikayla McCarthy, a 21-year-old exotic dancer, got a BBL in March because she could never get her butt to look the way she wanted from working out. Now, she says she has her desired result and more confidence.
“It’s easier to make as much [money] as I do now,” she says. “It’s easier because I don’t have to do as much.”
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